Alright loves, I’m just going to cut right to the chase. I’m here today to talk about the expectations we (I) have for new people, and why that can just blow up in our (my) faces! Whee!
Recently, I spent some time with a casual friend of mine, Matt. We’ve known each other for about a year, but don’t get a lot of opportunities to hang out because of his busy work and school schedule, and my lack of transportation. I would classify him as a casual friend; just a step or two above a friendly acquaintance. Not quite into full-blown friend territory.
I would be remiss if I said that I didn’t have high hopes for this person. We didn’t hang out often, but when we did I really enjoyed myself. We seemed to have a lot in common, and the things we didn’t have in common were a) minor, and b) we could disagree on without getting at each other’s throats or (at least on my end) without feeling condescended to. He’s the kind of rare person that I just felt comfortable talk to, right from the beginning.
A few days after Christmas, we got together to go to one of my favorite places in the world–the Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. I had recommended it to him way back in January last year and we finally got around to going. It was someplace I thought he’d enjoy, because even though he’s a Christian I knew he had a more… open-minded view, I suppose. I knew he’d studied other spiritual paths–I think I remember him saying something about visiting a Native American Shaman–so I thought he’d appreciate this spot.
It was a nice trip. We alternated between sitting in quiet meditation and light conversation. It was a good balance.
Towards the end of the visit, something felt… off. I figured it was just because it was so weird to be up in North County and not go see Pup. I actually considered parting ways with him there so I could take the bus to Pup’s work, or maybe call him to hang out, but I thought that would be rude. After all, he was kind enough to pick me up and drive us all the way up there, the least I could do would be to let him have my full attention.
…I probably should have called Pup.
I forget how we got on the topic, but we were talking about expectations with dating. He said something along the lines of how ridiculous it is that men expect women to be loyal and kind and good wives and mothers, but treat them poorly and like objects. Okay, cool, cool. I agree with that. He followed it up with:
“At the same time, women complain about wanting a good man, but then go out to the club dressed all slutty. When they do that, they should expect–” He caught himself and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “–I mean, when a girl dresses like that, it’s going to attract a certain type of attention, you know.”*
Which is basically the same thing as “women who dress slutty should expect to be treated poorly,” just dressed up in neo-liberal terminology. “I’m not saying women deserve this treatment. I’m just saying that’s how the world is.” With the heavy implication of, “It’s how the world is, so when you do that you bring it on yourself.”
My whole brain record-scratched. I couldn’t think straight, and I’ll admit that I just kind of went along with it because I was so shocked that those words had come out of his mouth, I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. My brain gave me two options: Nod and drop it, or start screaming at this dude I barely know while going sixty on the freeway. I chose my best chance of survival.
I’d had such high-hopes for this kid. He’s devout and vocal in his faith, without making it seem like he’s trying to shove it down anyone’s throat. He seemed pretty liberal–he’d spoken in class about not wanting to offend his trans server at a restaurant he’d gone to. He’d seemed humble, he admitted when he didn’t know or understand something. And he was cute, which is always a bonus; I’ve never thought we were particularly romantically compatible, but it’s always nice to look, you know?
I felt blindsided and betrayed by his slut-shaming comment. I thought he was better than that. It kind of broke my heart for a moment, I won’t lie.
Then, in the middle of feeling sad, I asked myself why I felt so sad. I asked myself why I was letting myself be so disappointed. After all, I’m from the internet. I know people have shitty opinions. And isn’t this exactly why I wanted to hang out with him? So I could get to know him and see if we could be good friends?
That’s when I realized, no, that wasn’t at all why I was hanging out with him at that moment. I was hanging out with him at that moment because I already thought we’d be good friends. Based on our (extremely limited) interactions, I took two or three shallowly positive attributes about him–stories he’d told that I hadn’t witnessed first-hand–and used them to construct an entire personality I liked, which I then projected onto him.
I realized that I don’t think it was necessarily his comment which upset me so much (I mean, obviously it upset me, because it was a shitty thing to say, but worse comments have not thrown me into the sense of betrayal I felt that day). I think it was realizing that I was being presumptuous and, frankly, stupid by assuming this kid was “my people.”
He doesn’t shove his religious beliefs down my throat, but that may be because I realized on that same trip that I’m 90% sure he thinks I’ve converted to Christianity… which no. No I have not. He might treat me completely different if he didn’t think I was a Christian. And just because he mentioned not wanting to offend his trans server doesn’t mean he’s necessarily accepting of trans identities. It could have meant he didn’t want to look like a jerk in front of the people he was with, or maybe it never happened at all and he made the whole thing up. I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. I had no experiences with him on which base these assumptions I’d made about his personality.
As a result, when he did something that ran counter to the image of him I’d constructed in my head, it really jarred me. I spent a good portion of my day just wondering to myself, “What the fuck just happened? Who was that person and what did he do with my friend?” Well, nothing. He’s the same person he’s always been, I’m just finally seeing what he’s like and realizing that my assumptions were wrong.
I think I’ll still hang out with him, occasionally. Despite this unfortunate situation, the time we’ve spent together has still been enjoyable. I’d like to keep getting to know him and see what he’s all about. Maybe he just didn’t realize how misogynistic what he said was.* Maybe he just needs to broaden his scope of friends and needs someone who can help him understand. Granted, I won’t be jumping through any hoops to do so, anymore, but I don’t think he’s so bad that I should write him off completely.
And if he keeps making those kinds of comments, I’ll peace out. I’m willing to give some gentle guidance, but I’m not going to be anyone’s How To Not Be A Sexist Asshole teacher. I don’t have time for that.
*You might be wondering how the comment about women dressing slutty and expecting certain behavior is different and more sexist than what was said about men. The difference is that the comment about men was geared at how they act towards, the things they say to, and how they treat women. They treat women poorly, so they shouldn’t expect to be treated well in return. The comment about women was geared towards how they look, which has no bearing on how they act towards, speak to, or treat men. They look slutty, so they shouldn’t expect to be treated well. With men, respect is measured the same: treatment begets treatment. With women, respect is not measured the same: appearances beget treatment. Men are judged as people, on how they act. Women are judged as objects, on how they look. That’s unfair and sexist.
For the record, if his men comment had been along a similar vein as his women comment, “Men dress dirty and look like bums, so they shouldn’t expect to get a good woman,” I wouldn’t think he was sexist. Just an asshole, because judging someone based on their looks is an asshole thing to do. But at least it would have been fair. Ya dig?
And there’s your crash-course in sexism for the day.
I love you all.
HEY! HEY! HEY! I WANT TO RECORD A Q&A! I’ve become enraptured with the idea of posting a video Q&A. With my actual, honest to goodness face and voice. Here’s the thing: I need questions! If there’s anything you want to know about me, ask it in the comments below and it will probably be included in the video. You have until January 26th to get your questions in!
Let’s keep in touch! Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest! And don’t forget to join in on all the horrible fun over at Dungeon of Loom–you don’t have to be a blogger to join, just a horrible person! 😉
Are you awesome? Do you like awesome things? Then stop by my Zazzle shop to pick up a t-shirt or mug and let the world know how awesome you are (but not in a braggy way)!
Like my content? Consider buying me a coffee. Less time worrying about paying my bills means more time creating content.